Discovering the 200-year Sol Heng Tai Mansion was like discovering a hidden treasure. Having walked past at least 20 times without ever noticing it, we were struck with awe at the moment we stepped into its courtyard for the first time.
This historical mansion was built before ‘Bangkok’ as we know it even existed. Dating back to the 1800’s (the late Ayuthaya period) it was founded by the wealthy Sol clan, a Hokkien family trading silk and dried goods from China. The family moved to Siam, got wealthy and owned most of the area we know as Talad Noi nowadays.
The Sol Heng Tai Mansion was built in a Hokkien-Teochew architectural style, though influenced by Thai building practices. The mansion consists of four houses surrounding a courtyard, with the main house in the back being the most impressive. Albeit in a slight state of decay, the original details of the building are largely preserved and in reasonable condition. Be sure not to miss the fantastic porcelain and teak ornaments adorning the walls of the main house! Most of the rooms in the left and right wings are empty or used as a storage for, undoubtedly, an amazing collection of old furniture and antiques.
A living monument
Nowadays, the Posayajinda family, descendants of the original owners (7th and 8th generation), have made the building their home. Normal, modern-day city lives are lived here, so entering the courtyard doesn’t feel like entering a museum (something that we initially expected to encounter).
The mansion is also home to something you wouldn’t expect to find in the alleys of Bangkok’s Chinatown: a fully-functioning scuba diving school including a deep pool in the courtyard, which makes for an interesting scene. As if that’s not peculiar enough yet, the family also owns more than a handful of pure-bred beagles and is operating a breeding kennel on the lower floor.
We couldn’t help but fantasize how this place could be turned into an amazing boutique hotel, but the family has no plans in doing so. They turned down offers from wealthy investors, and intend to keep the mansion in the family for as long as possible. As they garner no financial support from the state (protection of heritage buildings is unfortunately not exactly a ‘thing’ in Thailand), the expensive and necessary renovations have to be funded privately. While not accepting donations, the family recently opened a small-scale coffee shop to generate some extra income to cover the costs. The owner also told us that there are plans to open up an intimate home-style restaurant, something we are eager to see happening.
Hidden in plain sight
Finding the mansion can be a challenge, as the entrance is hidden deep down a maze of narrow alleyways. The easiest way is to navigate to one of Talad Noi’s busiest streets, Soi Wanit 2, and look for a lane named Soi Duang Tawan (here you’ll find signs pointing to River View Guesthouse). Walk until you find an enormous spirit tree on your left, turn left and walk past the abandoned orange beetle car. Follow the small alley until you find the Sol Heng Tai Mansion’s colorful entrance on your left-hand side. Keep your fingers crossed that it’s open (or call ahead, more info below).
080 218 7000
The Sol Heng Tai Mansion is a private residence but is occasionally open to the public. Before your visit, give the friendly owner Duangtawan Posayajinda a call.